David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
The New AI: Artificial Interviewing

January 16, 2020

Hurry down doomsday, the 'bots are taking over.*

A CNN Business story posted this week describes how university and college career services are having to prepare students to be interviewed by Artificial Intelligence.  According to the article, many companies are turning to AI for "filling internships and entry-level positions that may see a glut of applicants."  Because, God forbid, companies hate to waste time to conduct endless interviews.  Apparently, these companies with Artificially Intelligible names like HireVue, Talview and Yobs (Really? Yobs? That's the best y'all can come up with) are providing even more ways for companies to outsource their most important responsibilities: hiring good people.  

As some readers of this blog know, my usual complaint about hiring outsourcing is the search firm, but in this case why even bother to hire some 40-year old veteran of academia who now leads a search firm to find your best candidates?  Just set up the 'bot and let the algorithms kick in.  Of course, academic search firms rarely troll for the entry level positions. In this scenario, it's because, apparently, of the massive amount of college graduates applying for entry level jobs, that the Artificial Interview has made some in-roads.

Some joking aside (when would I ever set all joking aside?), the real concern here is in the article's example of one student who didn't realize she might have been interviewing with a 'bot when she did a virtual interview: "She might have used key words or phrases that would be picked up by AI and also kept direct eye contact with the camera," even thinking of the interview process as a "game" at that point.  

. . . "Dave, would you like to play a game?"  Yes, I know at this point I'm merging two computers from two separate movies.  My algorithm is probably on an infinite loop. However, infinite loops are exactly where I see this (not) going.

Eventually colleges and universities are going to teach our students how to create AIs to sit in for them on these interviews.  While the article says the AI is programmed by the hiring manager to ask certain questions and, as I infer, to look for certain answers, we all know how standard some interview processes can be. It wouldn't be very hard to create the job candidate version of AI.

Can you imagine these future interviews?

Art E. Ficial Interviewer:  Hello [insert awkward pause while 'bot scrolls through possible names] Mr. Smith.  Thanks for taking time to interview.

Artie Ficial NewGrad: Thank you [insert awkward pause while 'bot scrolls through possible names] Ms. Jones.  I'm so excited [insert awkward pause while 'bot scrolls through grammatical rules about split infinitives] to work potentially for [insert awkward pause while 'bot scrolls through possible company names] Futurism United.

Interviewer: So why don't we start with why you want to work for Futurism United?

New Graduate: [Insert awkward pause while 'bot scrolls through standard questions] Because you are the future of [awkward pause while 'bot searches for company's core business] plastics. [Insert awkward pause while 'bot searches for appropriate light-hearted cultural reference] It's like the line from "The Graduate," 'Plastics.  There's a great future in plastics.'

Interviewer: [Insert awkward pause while 'bot chooses best social cue in response: laughter, smirk, frown]  Ah, that is a good one, Mr. Smith.  [Insert awkward pause while 'bot chooses appropriate follow up]  We have never heard that one before at Futurism.  [Meanwhile, the algorithm judging Smith starts to subtract points]

New Graduate:  [Insert awkward pause while 'bot calculates other bot's reaction and ultimately how poorly the line went over]  I'm sorry. I guess I am a little nervous after all.

Interviewer: [Insert awkward pause while 'bot calculates more lost points for the admission of nerves].  That's o.k., Mr. Smith, why don't you tell me about your strengths?

New Graduate: [Insert awkward pause while 'bot calculates the length of eye contact necessary to gain some points back]  I am a assiduous worker.  I function proficiently with others.  I thrive on challenges.  

Interviewer:  [Insert awkward pause while 'bot attempts to equate the longer eye contact. Insert additional pause while 'bot awards points for vocabulary. ] Can you provide me an example of when you [insert awkward pause while 'bot starts subtracting points as it realizes the vocabulary obfuscated clichés] 'thrived on challenges?’

New Graduate: [Insert awkward pause while 'bot pulls from its programming the best point-producing body language technique to make up for the points it now senses are being lost by clichés] Oh, certainly [body leaning into the webcam]. In my Senior Seminar course [awkward pause while 'bot searches for best example] my professor provided little guidance.  I know he was under pressure from his upcoming tenure decision [insert awkward pause while 'bot searches for appropriate vocal tone connoting respectful scorn] but my entire senior project on plastics was riding on it. [Insert awkward pause while 'bot chooses a lighter vocal tone to return to]  In the end, I poured all of my efforts into the project, using everything I had learned through my college classes and submitted a pretty [insert awkward pause while 'bot weighs option of 'damn' versus 'durn') durn good final project.

Interviewer: [Insert awkward pause while 'bot furiously tries to calculate points that are both positive and negative at the same time.]

New Graduate: [Insert awkward pause while 'bot waits through interminable awkward pause by interviewing 'bot]

At this point, the artificial intelligences have ended up within an endless loop where the interviewing one is stuck trying to resolve its algorithm, while the interviewed one is stuck trying to resolve its algorithm.  

Meanwhile, the Smart Coffee Machines in both interviewer and interviewee offices have started brewing large pots of coffee, sensing that it's going to be a long night.

*Relatively obscure Elvis Costello reference.